OSV to celebrate vintage Independence Day
STURBRIDGE Independence Day celebrations at Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) will span two days this year, with fireworks on July 3 and daytime events on July 4.
Evening events on July 3 will include music, magic, a reading of the Declaration of Independence, and a dramatic fireworks display over the village countryside. On July 4, the celebration will continue with patriotic family fun including games, music, and a citizens' parade. The fireworks rain date is July 4.
Tickets for the July 3 evening activities are separate from daytime admission and are currently on sale at discounted prices. Until June 30, tickets are $10 for OSV members and $12 for the general public. Beginning July 1, all tickets will be available for $15. For details, call 1-800-SEE-1830 or visit www.osv.org.
According to OSV historians, Independence Day was one of very few holidays celebrated by early Americans. Aside from Thanksgiving, it was the most important and widely celebrated holidays of the time. Festivities included church services, patriotic orations, picnics, parades, dinners, and dances. Though fireworks were not common in rural villages like Sturbridge, they were used in larger cities like Philadelphia and Boston to celebrate special events.
The OSV fireworks display will begin at dusk and is planned to be larger and more spectacular than in previous years. More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the event, which has sold out for the past three years. The popularity of the OSV fireworks display is due, in part, to the relative lack of light pollution and the resulting excellent visibility.
Prior to the fireworks, visitors can hear a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence by Massachusetts State Senator Stephen Brewer (Barre) and hear music by the Heritage String Band. Other activities include sack races, pie-eating contests, juggling demonstrations, and magician Robert Olson. Visitors can also enter the "Patriotic Fashion Contest" prior to the start of the fireworks. Guests can bring their own picnics or purchase beer, wine, sandwiches, snacks, and soft drinks, which will be on sale throughout the evening.
On July 3, the Oliver Wight Tavern will offer Sunday Brunch until 1:30 p.m. and then re-open for a special Independence Day buffet from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Reservations for both seatings are recommended and can be made by calling 508-347-0363.
During the daytime celebration on July 4, visitors will be able to sign a giant reproduction of the Declaration of Independence and hear the document read. They will also enjoy listening to fife and drum music, taking part in a citizen's parade, and watch militia marching.
Visitors are invited to play games of 19th-century "base ball." Though similar to today's "national pastime," there were some significant differences in the way the game was played in the 1800s. The bats were ax handles and runners ran the bases clockwise, starting at what is now recognized as third base. In general, the rules were simpler and it was considered a game to be played rather than one to be watched.
Though legend credits Abner Doubleday with the invention of baseball in the United States in 1839, accounts of the game go back as far as Valley Forge in 1778, according to OSV Curator Tom Kelleher. In fact, very early forms games with balls were played in ancient Egypt, China, and Greece and by the 13th century, the English, Dutch, and Germans were all playing different early games with bats and balls. In the United States, the sport continued to grow in popularity in the 1800s, as people began to live closer together in villages like the one represented at OSV. With the move from isolated farms to centralized communities, it was much easier to form teams. The sport grew also grew more complicated as the 19th century progressed and the first game to charge admission was held in 1858 in Long Island.
OSV celebrates life in early New England from 1790 to 1840. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., OSV is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally.
Currently, the village is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $7 for children ages 3 to 17; children younger than 3 are admitted free. Each admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days.